Flying Burgers and Checkout-less Shopping?
How emerging technologies aim to change the retail experience
By FEN BOXLEY | Contributing Writer
Companies around the world are always looking for ways to make a customer’s shopping experience easier, more convenient, and in many cases, more exciting.
UberEats, for example, is experimenting with food delivery by drones, and Amazon has opened several cashier-less stores that take scanning and physically paying for goods out of the equation entirely.
What is considered emerging today, though, is likely to become commonplace in the years to come, just as “new” technologies of the past have.
For example, McDonald’s decided in 2002 to start accepting credit card payments at its stores.
Before then, if you wanted a Big Mac and some fries, you had to have the cash in your hand to pay for them.
Initially, the company wasn’t willing to go all-in on the concept and spokesman Bill Whitman told CNN at the time that McDonald’s would only roll out new credit card systems in “markets where it makes sense.”
McDonald’s, and an immeasurable number of other retailers around the world, realized very quickly that taking credit cards made sense nearly everywhere.
Skip the checkout line
Another piece of emerging technology that could soon become standard play for retailers went live in Seattle in early 2018.
That January, Amazon opened its first cashier-less store and has since opened three more of the stores opened in Seattle, along with three in Chicago and three more in San Francisco.
The stores use the same type of technology used in self-driving cars – computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning – to know when a customer picks up an item or puts it back.
What if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?
“We asked ourselves: What if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?” Amazon said on it’s website. “Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go?”
Connecting a credit or debit card to the Amazon Go App allows shoppers to walk in, grab the items they want and walk out again without stopping to pay for anything.
The store’s technology keeps track of what the customer puts into his or her basket, rings up the items automatically and charges them to the Amazon Go App as they leave the store.
The stores, while few, have been successful enough that Amazon touted them in its October earnings report as a factor in a 29 percent increase in net sales from the previous year.
Taking delivery to new heights
As technological advances continue in the retail world, shopping experiences in the next decade may look nothing like they do now, according to food-delivery giant UberEats.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to have a drone-based food delivery service in place by 2021.
At the Uber Elevate Summit in May, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he was confident that timeline was possible.
“We’re the largest food delivery business in the world now … so there’s extraordinary opportunity there,” he said.
“It’s my personal belief that a key to solving urban mobility is flying burgers, in any city,” he continued. “So we need flying burgers, everyone needs it, so we’re working on that.”
UberEats has partnered with test cities like San Diego, to work out the logistics of drone deliveries.
Khosrowshahi was excited by the results so far and, once perfected, saw drone deliveries becoming common in the years to come.
“We do think this idea of being able to push a button and have food at your doorstep somewhere between five minutes from now and 30 minutes from now … that’s a revolutionary product,” he said.